Blind student gets high-tech hat created by Robotics Team

Top hats might seem a bit old fashioned, but Oak Harbor student Levi Gonzalez is bringing them back with a high-tech twist.

On Thursday, Oak Harbor High School’s advanced Robotics Team presented Gonzalez, who is blind and autistic, with a state-of-the-art top hat.

The hat allows him to detect obstacles using ultrasonic sensors, technology not unsimilar to what bats use to navigate.

Small vibrating motors fitted inside the device receive input from sensors that provide direction and distance information to corresponding motors.

Gonzales’ mother, Cassandra Whitlatch, said she was ecstatic to hear the students on the Robotics Team were making her son the device.

Gonzales is one of two blind students attending the high school.

“I was nearly in tears,” Whitlatch said. “I am so happy and thankful for this, and for the sake of my son and his future, and the future of the blind.”

Whitlatch said she was deeply thankful to the Robotics Team.

“I just don’t think anyone is inventing any new devices to help the blind,” she said.

Robotics Team teacher Che Edoga said he formed the idea for the hat a few years ago, but it took a while to see it through to development because students come and go from the high school.

“This team carried the project across the finish line,” said Edoga.

The Robotics Team that developed the hat is composed of AJ Diamond, Tristan Boyle, Mathew Shipley, Ethan Lang and Ali Short. Together, the students said they employed skills and programs such as cadding, design, programming and engineering.

“The hardest part was definitely the programming,” said Lang. “We kept getting error messages on the computer.”

“It was really fantastic to build something to help out a classmate,” said Diamond.

The rest of the team agreed.

“A lot of research went into this project,” Short said.

Most of the items they used, except for the top hat, were purchased from Radio Shack, according to the team.

The hat came from Amazon and was selected because it’s sturdy enough to support the weight of the internal components.

The project isn’t totally completed by any means, Edoga said, adding he is planning to add to the technology by incorporating a GPS and voice commands that will help aid the blind in navigation.

Projects such as this are all made possible by levy dollars, according to Oak Harbor School District officials.

Photo by Michael Watkins/Whidbey News-Times AJ Diamond, right helps Levi Gonzalez, an 11th-grade blind and autisitic student with a special hat created by the Oak Harbor High School advanced robotics team Thursday in Oak Harbor. The hat was fitted with ultrasonic sensors that transmit information to small vibrating motors that alerts the wearer to location and distance of obstacles.

More in News

Jeep rolls in front of hospital

A Jeep SUV hit a tree in front of WhidbeyHealth Medical Center… Continue reading

Islanders help victims of Kilauea

Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, landslides. And now, two Whidbey Islanders add volcano recovery… Continue reading

Field carrier landing practice schedule — Aug. 13-19

Aircraft carrier-based flight training operations are scheduled at Ault Field through Aug.… Continue reading

Photo by Jim Christensen.
                                The rented canoe is hauled ashore at a stopping point.
Man takes canoe trip of a lifetime

Jim Christensen’s summer vacation means getting away to the remote woodlands of… Continue reading

Photo by Maria Matson / Whidbey News Group
                                Peggie Suess will be celebrating her 100th birthday on Aug. 22. She sits here at Summer Hill Senior Living, ready for the day’s Bingo game.
Oak Harbor woman celebrates her 100th birthday on Aug. 22

On Aug. 22, Peggie Suess will celebrate her 100th birthday. The celebration… Continue reading

Whidbey residents on OSU scholastic honor roll

Students who made the scholastic honor roll spring term 2018 have been… Continue reading

Pigfest awaiting word from Guinness on largest BBQ pit

Scott Fraser’s goal for this year’s Pigfest was to have the world’s… Continue reading

SAR rescues climber

A Search and Rescue team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island rescued… Continue reading

Most Read